Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics



THE GREAT DEBATES

Testing, Terminating, and Discriminating


JAMES LINDEMANN  NELSON  a1
a1 Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, Michigan State University

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In my previous thinking about the considerations that go under the heading of the “expressivist argument,” I have been fascinated chiefly by two of its features: its (implicit) semantic commitments and its independence from disputes about the moral standing of fetuses. Abortions prompted by prenatal testing are undertaken because of indications that the fetus has physical features that would be configured as disabilities in the social world into which it would otherwise emerge. The expressivist argument's allegation, as I have understood it, is that abortions so motivated convey semantic content—“send a message”—to people who are currently living with disabilities that is somehow insulting, hateful, dismissive, or disparaging. It is thus uncontroversial moral subjects who are wronged, not—or, at least, not necessarily—the aborted fetuses. So far as this argument goes, a person might hold strongly pro-choice views about abortion generally and still object to “selective” abortions.



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